Ray Lee

LOVEBRIDGE – Love it or Hate It?

Last week in Orlando at the World Bridge Championships, I saw a demo of what some think may be the future of the game. It’s called ‘LoveBridge’ and it’s implemented over a private secure network with each player using his own dedicated tablet to play on.

First let me say that the interface is terrific, and highly customizable. Only the most dedicated Luddite will have any problem managing it. You even have individualized choices regarding the way the cards are played — click, double click, or drag and drop. In the time I spent with it, I found it intuitive and very easy to use — much easier than the web interface on BBO, for example, and far more sophisticated. I could go into more detail here, but if you are interested in the way it works for the player, take a look at the videos on www.lovebridge.com.

It’s actually in game management that the whole concept comes into its own, however. No duplicating boards. No leads out of turn, no insufficient bids, no revokes, no going to the wrong table or sitting in the wrong direction or playing the wrong boards. And if you call the Director, the official has a screen that gives every detail of the bidding and play to date — including the exact time each player has taken over each action. The advantages of that are self-evident. For the journalist, it’s a godsend. Every bid and every play at every table is there to be examined, both in real time if it’s broadcast, which it can be, and afterwards. The same information is there for the players. Do you suspect you should have made that Four Spades contract? You can look at every table where they did make it, and see how the play went. The usefulness for teaching, too, is obvious.

LoveBridge was created by a Hungarian company, and they say that the system has already been used successfully in clubs in Budapest. Indeed, they plan a Bridge Festival in February where only the LoveBridge interface will be used. Clearly, use of this system would address some of the issues of top-level bridge in terms of cheating, or the ability to follow these competitions online. For example, there is a limit to the number of Internet feeds that can be provided from major championships, and the natural tendency is therefore to focus on the Open competitions, which attract far more spectators per table on average than do the Women’s and Seniors events (the ratio is 3300 to 400 to 70, according to the WBF official I talked to). The result is that those who do want to watch something other than the Open, or write about it, have a hard time getting access. With a LoveBridge tournament, even if the play isn’t broadcast live, everything will available online shortly afterwards for all tables in all events. Again, you can see examples of the kind of information that is available on the LoveBridge website.

But outside the top levels, is this a solution looking for a problem? One top-level expert I talked to put it this way: ‘Forty years or so ago I learned to play a card game, and I want to keep playing a card game. I don’t even like using a touch-screen phone.’ Is this really the way people in bridge clubs want to interact (or not)? Perhaps it will take time, until the generation(s) that have grown up with touch-screen tablets and phones become the majority of players, before a computer interface becomes the accepted way of playing.

I’m reminded of an incident from many years ago. We owned an early Apple II desktop, and my wife wrote several game programs for our kids. One day my son, who was about 6 at the time, was proudly showing off a Crazy Eights game to some visitors, and they were quite impressed. Then at one point he turned to them and said, ‘You know, you can play this with cards too.’ Maybe that’s where bridge is heading.


18 Comments

richard willeyOctober 17th, 2018 at 3:05 pm

Implementing this type of electronic environment would

A. Block a large number of collusive cheating methods (coughing, manipulating the bidding box, etc.)
B. Make a wide variety of other techniques much easier to detecting (radio signals, etc.)
C. Provide the type of comprehensive record keeping that is necessary to to perform detailed statistical analysis of results

Plus, as a bonus as you note you also get

1. Dramatic improvements in Vugraph
2. Comprehensive record keeping

For the top level of the game it seems like a no brainer

Judy Kay-WolffOctober 28th, 2018 at 5:09 am

Hi Ray,

Sounds great for the improvement of the obvious disintegrity of the game. However, it is incredibly sad that we may have been forced to remove the honorable sociability. According to Bobby .. to adopt this proposed change might as well be thought of a new game played by robots.

Just one experienced player’s opinion.

Cheers to you and Linda!

Judy

JRGOctober 29th, 2018 at 7:12 pm

Fascinating. I’m impressed by the programming effort this must have taken. The interface, as you said, is excellent. The YouTube tutorial is good and visiting their website allowed browsing the vugraph.

What I wonder about is… If this were employed in, say, the Spingold, what about vugraph commentators? The vugraph ability to use the screen split into quadrants would be useful for the commentators, but is there a mechanism for vugraph commentators to share their comments?

Mircea1April 29th, 2019 at 3:13 pm

Playing bridge on electronic devices, rather than with cards, makes a lot of sense. For serious players, the game should be almost exclusively about strategy and technique rather than the habit of playing cards. I know this is an ugly comparison but it’s the same as what nicotine is for a smoker compared with the gesturing involved in smoking.

As far as the socializing aspect, although technically not necessary, the play can still be done at the club with breaks and after game activities. I think promoting the game through the use of electronic devices is one of the very few avenues that would allow our game to survive (the other important one being promoting bridge in schools, a favorite topic for Bobby Wolff)

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